GLEN JOHNSON: With the Premier League set to return behind closed doors, Brand Ambassador Glen Johnson recalls the venues he found most intimidating during his playing days.

During my career I played at some very intimidating places. It’s never easy playing away from home as the home fans are doing everything they can to make it as unpleasant as possible and some players struggle to overcome that. There were plenty of stadiums I could have gone with, including Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan as well as the Stadio Olimpico where Lazio and Roma play, but the chosen three particularly stand out.  

Besiktas Arena AufSchalke

I only had to travel away to Besiktas once and in all honesty I’m glad I did! We faced them in the Champions League group stages while I was playing for Chelsea and although we managed to get a crucial away win, it was one of the toughest and most intimidating atmospheres I ever played in. 

The game was actually moved to the Arena AufSchalke in Germany, which you might have thought would have made things easier for us, but that wasn’t the case at all. From the moment we went out to warm up you could hear the home fans and you could just tell it was going to be a really tough night. 

As we kicked off the fans quickly began to throw a number of objects onto the pitch and it was a pretty unpleasant place to be in. It got so bad that the referee had to take us off at one point because there was so much rubbish on the pitch, but as I said, we got the win which was fantastic as it guaranteed us top spot in the group.

Manchester United Old Trafford

I played against Manchester United more than any other side and as you can expect suffered a number of bad days against them. Old Trafford is notoriously one of the hardest grounds in the Premier League to go and get a result at for a number of reasons. Firstly, over the years they have always been one of the best sides with some of the world’s best players, meaning you always know you’re going to have to put in a top-class performance to even be competitive.

Old Trafford is the other huge factor which is why United have been so dominant in the Premier League era. The fans there make it very uncomfortable for away players and they really get stuck into you from the off. However, as tricky as that is to overcome, a lot of matches are lost before the teams even get on the pitch. Over the years, United have created a huge fear factor, especially at Old Trafford, which often means that teams lose to them before they get off the bus. Once that’s in a player’s mind, it’s very hard to shake it.

Southampton St Mary’s

Playing in a local derby is something you always look forward to. They are brilliant to play in, especially at home as they are games that really mean something to the supporters and there is always something special about having local bragging rights. I played in a number, including the Merseyside derby, but it was the South Coast one between Portsmouth and Southampton which really stood out.

Like all derbies, there is a bitter rivalry between the two sides and you could really feel it both on the pitch and in the stands. The Southampton fans really made our lives tough and that made the times we got something there really worthwhile.

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